High Art: Q&A with Rooftopping Photographer Christopher Olstein

Rooftopping photographer Christopher Olstein (right) enjoys the view.

Rooftopping photographer Christopher Olstein (right) enjoys the view.

Most of us spend our days looking up at the skyline of Philadelphia, but what if we could get on top of some of the city’s most iconic buildings and structures and have a look around? That is the goal of the “rooftopper,” a type of urban explorer that has been in the news recently thanks to nauseating feats like this one atop the world’s second tallest building and also some attempts that, tragically, didn’t turn out quite as well. We caught up with Philadelphia rooftopper Christopher Olstein, who publishes the photographs from his elevated missions on Instagram. (A gallery of his photos appears after the interview.)

What possessed you to start rooftopping?

Instagram, actually. I was seeing a lot of people doing it in Manhattan, which is such a dense, tall city with so many different places to go and capture different views. And so I thought it would be interesting to see what kinds of views I get in a city like Philadelphia. Read more »

Adam Wallacavage Exhibiting Photographs For the First Time in Over a Decade

Ship on rock

We all know Adam Wallacavage‘s octopus chandeliers, the whimsical light fixtures that decorate ceilings from here to São Paulo and beyond. It’s been a long time, though, since the local photographer and sculpture artist exhibited photographs. Like over-a-decade long. That’ll change soon, when Fishtown contemporary art space LMNL Gallery opens his new exhibit of photographs called “Shipwrecks of Unicorn Beach.”

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Here Are the Three Winning Shots From Philly Photo Day

On October 9th, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC) hosted their annual Greater Philly Photo Day. The initiative asks anyone to snap a picture on that day and submit it in the attempt to capture what it looked like to be in Philly during that 24-hour period. A rep from PPAC tells me they got 1,500 photos, and they’ve selected three standouts that will be blown up and posted on SEPTA platforms around the city. Here are those winning shots, by photographers Alex Djordjevic, Paul Drzal, and Steven Huang:

The nice thing about Philly Photo Day, however, is that everyone who submits is a winner. You may not have your photo immortalized on SEPTA platforms, but every image will be featured in an exhibition of entries at the PPAC Main Gallery at 1400 North American Street. That kicks off on November 12th with a special reception at 6 pm. For more, check out PPAC’s website here. Or look out for one of the billboards on the SEPTA platforms. Here’s an example of what they’ll look like with text and images and such:

greater philly photo day

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Tomorrow is Greater Philly Photo Day

Get your camera ready, Philadelphia. Tomorrow is Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC)’s Greater Philly Photo Day, an initiative to capture what 24 hours living in Philadelphia looks like in photo form (and a way to have one of your pics included in a real-life exhibition—no matter what your skill level).

Taking part is easy-breezy. Just snap a photo between midnight and 11:59 pm on Friday, October 9th, and upload it to PPAC’s website. The only rules are that you have to capture the photo on October 9, 2015, and you have to have taken it within one of the 11 counties making up the Greater Philadelphia Region. You have until October 14th to upload it onto PPAC’s site here.

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You Wish You Worked Here: Philly’s Prettiest Photo Studio


Nell Hoving in her whitewashed Kensington studio. | Photo by Lauren McGrath.

We’re serving up some serious office envy in our new series, You Wish You Worked Here, where we take you inside the city’s most covet-worthy jobs. From fashion-focused careers you didn’t know existed to just plain gorgeous desk setups, take a peek inside
the glam life of Philly’s corporate and creative elite.

If you’re a fan of Shoppist’s print counterpart — the Scout section of Philly Mag — then you’ll probably recognize the work of Nell Hoving, the bubbly, redheaded photographer who shoots some of our prettiest pictures. Hoving’s airy studio, located in a light-filled corner of an old soap factory in Kensington, is a place of inspiration, with whitewashed brick walls, a sprinkling of vintage curiosities and huge windows that wash it all in light.

We spent the day with Hoving shooting our November Covet page (see a sneak peek here!). In between shots, I picked her brain about her “office space,” her on-set uniform, and how to make it as an editorial photographer in Philly. (Oh, and because you’ll want to know, her gorgeous strawberry hair color is natural. Consider us very jealous.)  Read more »

84-Year-Old Philly-Born Photographer, Dave Heath, Finally Gets His Due

"Drowning Scene," Central Park, New York City, 1957, by Dave Heath (The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

“Drowning Scene,” Central Park, New York City, 1957, by Dave Heath (The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation)

Photographer Dave Heath’s start in life wasn’t easy, but maybe it provides a clue to understanding his soulful, empathetic and moving body of work, on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art beginning this Saturday, September 19. When you look at the work, the loneliness and gentle observation clearly stand out as artistic motifs. His black-and-white photographs are gorgeous and stark, and yet so deeply human that they easily connect the viewer to subject. Heath taps into our collective identification with times of loneliness, self-absorption and longing. These images are not ironic. There’s no arch cleverness. And that’s one of the strongest qualities of this work. Read more »

Humans of New York-Style Blog Spotlights Philly’s Cerebral Palsy Community


When asked what she would say if she could speak to a million people, Lauren answered, “Do you have any pets?”

A new blog put together by three Penn students features photos and stories from what might be an unexpected location: the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy, in University City. The blog, called A Different Kind of Expression, uses the style of Humans of New York (and its many imitators) to give the world a window into the lives of the kids who spend their days at the school, and the adults who support and educate them.

Nikhil Rajapuram, one of the founders of A Different Kind of Expression, has worked with HMS for almost two years, and he was looking for a way to share the amazing stories he saw there. “The biggest issue facing people with disabilities, especially cerebral palsy, is social stigma,” he says. He hopes that this site can help fight that stigma by helping people understand the cerebral palsy community.

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Glamour Shots for Bear Daddies Coming to Philly

AlexZOlrDave Dudar, an Atlanta photographer who’s made a name for himself shooting “masculine and bearish” men, is coming to Philly to shoot some of the beefcakes in our fair city on April 18th.

His outfit is called “Manshots By Dave,” and his credits include work with bear blog Modern Bear, and features in Satelite and HDM. Dudar tells me he wants to come to Philly, because “it is the fifth largest city in the country—but often overlooked. There’s a lot of authentic handsome in a city so big.”

All of his shoots are done outdoors, in urban settings that suit the city he’s in. So, for instance, in Philadelphia, he may shoot a guy on a cobblestoned street with a rowhouse as a backdrop—or maybe in the alley in front of The Bike Stop. “I’m looking for things that make Philadelphia unique,” he says.

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Philly Photographer Takes Stunning Nude Self-Portraits in Abandoned Buildings


Sarah Bloom is a 45-year-old photographer who makes her living by shooting weddings and portrait photography. But Bloom, who lives in Narberth with her 19-year-old daughter, also finds her way into abandoned buildings to take nude self-portraits among the decay, and she’s just gotten international attention for it. Here, she tells us why she does it. A gallery, used with permission, appears after the interview.

So why nude and why in abandoned buildings in Philadelphia?
I had already been taking photos of myself naked to try and get more comfortable with my body. I liked the nude form because of the vulnerability and fragility of our physical beings. And the buildings became a canvas, a backdrop for me. I think they’re beautiful. Sad and beautiful. Aging can be sad but also beautiful, and I try to embrace it as such. There’s a lot of loss there, but also a beauty to it.

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